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Warm Audio announced API 312 style pre amp!!!

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by kmetal, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Oh man oh man, this could be good. Fingers crossed. @$1199 it's excellent per channel cost, got input And output xformers, and also an an output knob per channel, which could be useful when not only for good gain staging, but especially if these trannys overdrive pleasantly. Plus the op amps are easily swappable. If I'm dreaming I don't wanna wake up! I hope it sounds as cool as it seems on paper!

    audiokid, pcrecord and Sean G like this.
  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Looks like API updated the 512c 500 series pre to the 500v, and included an output attenuation knob. This is great. Having used the 512c once on bass at the studio, which was enough to make me want it, this new version really really makes me want it.

    This is an exciting time for gear, and I think designers are finally past the first hump of digital about 40 years into its integration in audio. Analog took about 80-85 years to get refined.

    This is an exciting time for both ITB and analog since things are moving passed the problem solving or comprise points, into good sonics and creativity again.

    From thins like melodynes audio to midi functionality to Sibelius turning print music into midi, tabulators, and even sound thru vsti, many of the things I 'wished' I could do just a few years back are now super easy, and possible.

    I think we've entered a new era. Latency is dropping, native computer power is competitive, the fizzy stuff of pre 2013 records is gone (mostly at least) I think due to better clocking/conversion, and 64bit OS, this is a wonderful time to be a creative professional. I happened to be in the market for new stuff for the first time in 6-8 years, but I think anyone could with a 'rack review' of there own and perhaps swap out some of there audio door stops for some of these new toys at no pain to the pocket.

  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I agree.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The only thing about Warm Audio that I've noticed over the years, ( and I could be wrong but I don't think I am) is that they seem to use Cinemag XFO's pretty much exclusively in everything they make that uses XFO's.
    I don't hate Cinemag trannies, but when I was doing the ADK Mic Pre for vocals shoot-out here on RO a few years back, and then posting blind listening tests, the Cinemag was always more towards the bottom of the rankings of sonic preference with those that listened and commented.
    ( FWIW The consistently top-rated was the Lundhal 1538, which is also used in Focusrite's ISA series, and is also a common replacement XFO for Ribbon Mic mods...)

    Of course there are variables... and there's no doubt that Cinemag makes more than just one input/output XFO. I'd be very interested to hear what you think once you put it through its paces, K. :)

    There are some who adore the sound of API, others who find it preferable for only certain things, and still others who don't really care for it at all. I happen to be in the middle camp, I think API is great for snare, toms, electric guitar amps and DI'd basses... but it's not traditionally been my first choice for vocals, or other tracks that have more "nuance". Jensen and Lundhal seem to be my main go-to's for those things. But, that's a personal preference thing, not an unequivocal statement across the board.

    The bottom line is, if you like the way it sounds, be it Cinemag or API, then absolutely nothing else matters. ;)

    I absolutely agree. There are RO members who prefer analog, those who prefer digital, those who prefer a hybrid workflow. Some of us like plug-in's, some of us not as much, some not at all.
    Here's the thing for me, and the way I look at it... that technology has given us a plethora of choices in which we can create and work in whatever way we want.. and that's what I find to be most attractive.
    There's some new digital technology that I love, and some I don't... there's some analog technology that I love, and some things I don't. I'm not scared or wary of new things just because they are new, nor am I enslaved by "old" ways, either. If new technology wasn't embraced through the years, then we'd still be recording to cylinders and wire ... sometimes new is great, sometimes not, sometimes old is awesome, sometimes not.
    In any case, technology has given us the choice(s) to work in whatever way we find to be the most productive to our personal creativity... And that's important to me. ;)

    IMHO of course.
    kmetal likes this.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Interesting enough, some gear I've sold off because it did not make my cut had Cinemag as well.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    FWIW you were one of the people on that XFO shootout who chose the Jensen as being best, followed by the Lundhal. You chose the Cinemag as your least favorite.

    Not judging. Just sayin'. ;)
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Bryce sounds like a cool guy. What makes one tranny different from another?
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There are several variables- the number of winding's, the winding ratio, voltage rating, etc.
    I'm no XFO expert, so someone like Bos ( @Boswell) - or even John Hardy himself if he is lurking - would be able to explain more about what factors determine the differences.
    XFO's aren't all that different from tube stuff, really... in that certain tubes have certain characteristics - both good and bad - and while I've never heard a "bad" XFO, I've certainly heard those that I prefer more than others.
    Some times the differences are esoteric, and it takes a trained ear to hear them... while other times, the differences are pretty much in-your-face obvious.

    But, it also depends on the mic, the singer...

    In my own experience, having a choice between Jensen, Lundhal, Sowter, ADK and Cinemag input XFO's, I tend to go with he Jensen and the Lundhal, and probably out of those two, I use the Lundhal most.
    Out of the output XFO's I have - (John Hardy, Seventh Circle, ADK and the ADK Neve-Style) - my favorite one to use, with both the Lundhal and the Jensen, is constantly the JH 990 discreet op amp.
    I really like this combo for vocals ( at least my own and two of my biggest clients). The 990 has a very smooth mid-range presence to it, but is still present, and up front, but not at all harsh. The low end is nice and tight, not muddy or "frumpy".
    The Seventh Circle OA has a very SSL type vibe to it, a "fast" sound, high detail and clarity, and when pushed, it can develop a very pleasing "edge" in the top-top end.
    The ADK Neve Clone is indeed very Neve-ish... it has that "classic" warm, rich sound, silky high's. The mid-range is a bit more subdued, but a great edge when pushed.

    All of these were tested using my voice on an AKG 414EB/C12 mic, in a treated room. I did similar tests with a few clients, both experienced studio singers... one male, one female. The Jensen was #1 for the female vocal, with the Lundhal ranking a close 2nd.
    The Lundhal fared best for male vocals, with the Jensen coming in a close 2nd. In both cases, the JH 990 discreet Op-Amp was the best-sounding choice for those singers, using that mic, and in the same environment.

    I experimented with some re-amping as well; sending vocals out to the ADK that had been previously recorded through a Presonus 1818; and out of all the choices, the Sowter input and Seventh Circle OpAmp combo sounded best for that particular workflow... although I have no explanation as to why. I'm more than happy to entertain theories. ;)

    kmetal likes this.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Could be a while man... But I'll be sure to report. According to the video the warm used "altran USA" trannies.

    I've only used it for bass DI that one time. It made the same bass I usually used sound instantly more 'like I record' so that's really the only reason I want a 512. I'm so critiacAl and negative that when something sounds actually good to me right away, it's usually a keeper. Although I do take a second listen just in case.

    After using the calrec, it's my opinion that calrec/neve smokes API in general. I feel like neve does anything API could do, and the things it can't. That said, for bass di i think I still err towards the 512.

    I tend to like the lundyl in the ISA stuff, and whatever is in those calrecs in general as far as xfo sound. On more than one occasion I've noticed something sounding exceptional and it was the ISA (to my surprise) and the carelec/neve stuff.

    That said I belive van halen used API after the first record which was a UA 610 (original)

    I don't thin swapping xfo is very hard for a tech. I know one of the kids at the studio had a Jensen swapped into his eureka for like $100.

    When I think Jensen I think big full and dark (slightly) lundyl I think smooth and full. Cinemag I'm not reall familiar w the tendencies.

    I don't know a whole lot about xfo besides I tend to like their sound in pre amps. Even an old Tascam mixer was noticeably good and had xfo in the path.

    Xfo does to mic pre amps, what tubes do to guitar amps imho.

    Tubes in mic pres don't have to necessarily be dark or saturated, they can be very clear like a Manley, but they seem to err to vintage to my ears.

    Before I used tube and tranny pres I was obsessed w getting a tube pre but really it's the tranny sound I tend to lean towards. It's thick and 'modern' even tho I hate modern as a sound description, as well as 'like a record' lol it's cliche night for me.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    And yet, there are those who prefer neither tubes or trannies... opting for the clearest and cleanest path to the destination as possible. Chris ( @audiokid ) tends to prefer this route - I'm not inferring that he hates tubes or trannies, but he tends to lean more towards a transformer-less signal path, opting for as much transparency and lack of "character' as possible (although I suppose that the argument could be made that this "lack of character' found in these designs could be considered to offer a "vibe" of their own, LOL, if you consider ultra-clean to be a "character" description of its own). ;)

    While there is nothing that is truly 100% transparent, there are pre's that offer far less color, character, and vibe than tube and/or trannie designs.
    Grace and Millennia are a few preamp manufacturers that offer a discreet transformer-less signal path, and are known for being far more "transparent" than pre's that are tube or trannie.
    Interestingly enough though, it does seem to be - at least as of this writing - that there are far more tube/trannie pre's available out there than there are transformer-less.

    I think that most here on RO know me well enough to know that I'm not hell-bent in any one direction. I like options, I like choices, I embrace technological advances in our craft that allows this range of choices.
    In my perfect world of preamps, I'd like to have a plethora of all styles: a few tube pre's, a few XFO designs, FET, Transformer-less, even hybrids like the Studio Projects VTB1 is a cool little amp; which offers both tube and solid state, and lets you select either/or, or even blend between them in varying degrees.

    Mics enter into the equation as well... I like mics with XFO's - and those without. I like mics with tubes, and those without. Having a nice, wide, sonic pallet to choose from, letting you select which is best, based on the context of the song; and for the individual vocalist as well, is highly advantageous.
    Technology is a very good thing. It gives us choices, which are also a very good thing.

    Sonically speaking, it'd be a pretty boring world if we were all using the exact same gear, wouldn't it? It'd be a lot like restricting artists to painting with only the exact same shades of red, blue, and green... ;)

    IMHO :)
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I agree completely D. I also like to have options. I think 'clean/transparent' gets a bad rap becuase of the rarely reputation of solid state gear and digital. And cheap clean/transparent is often flat and clinical.

    When you get into things like grace and millennia what they do by being clean is unlock space and dimension. IMHO.

    I look forward to having a nice unr from millennia or grace. I'll likely go ISA then something super clean. Then neve or API, then a tube unit. Over the next 5 years.

    One thing I will say is that I very much like the tla 100 compresser, and the retro 176, has a great reputation. People love the la2a, so if I get an OB compressor/pair I'm probably gonna shoot for tube based.

    The tla 100 is way to expensive for me, and it only does one thing, but that dull silk it does so works amazingly w bright voices mics and pres and it just does a nice job of it.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Not exactly, let me explain my approach a bit clearer:

    I love character and sometimes the dirtiest patch as possible. Just not when it comes to a summing or mastering console, that is, unless I want to insert the character at will rather than it always forced in a mix or a track.

    My favourite pre of all time is the Millennia M-2b which has a tube in it. And I also love the ADL 600 which is far from clean.

    On the other side of the fence, I like Lavry SS preamps because they sound very natural making a choice pre for mobile acoustic work like choirs, acoustic instruments where transparent accuracy is likely more important.
    One of my all time vocal chains is the M-2b > UA LA2A/1176 l combo followed by a Pultec MEQ-5 which has a big ass tranny. That's a lot of character.

    Its not that I don't like trannies and tubes, it's that I don't want them on the console when I have a choice system like what I built. Especially when I have modular options to get character in a more refined "modular" fluid workflow (ITB or OTB).

    Being said... If I had to choose a console, no choice of ever getting a modular chain like what I describe, I would likely look to API or Neve and forget I ever discovered the transformerless console combined with outboard pre's etc.
    kmetal likes this.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Understood, and I apologize for the presumptive nature of my post.

    Thanks for clarifying, Chris. ;)
    audiokid likes this.
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I think the question is, is the warm audio missing something vs the API, or is the API just rendered overpriced now.... I hope someone here on RO tries the warm version. Lord knows the mags are likely gonna rave about it, while simultaneously publishing adds. Lol although tape op and SOS are Somewhat honest. If you know how to interpret their language lol.
  15. JWHardy

    JWHardy Active Member

    I have not read the entire thread in detail, but here are a few comments:

    I try to emphasize the importance of the "impedance ratio", or "turns ratio", or "step-up ratio" (they are all saying the same thing in different ways), and the importance of using the transformer with the lowest ratio if you want the lowest distortion and widest bandwidth. If you want color and flavor, the higher ratio models will be more appropriate.

    Check the Jensen Transformers page for selecting mic input transformers:


    The older version of this page (pre-Radial) included the "-3dB" bandwidth of each model. Here are those specs for their main mic input models:

    JT-16-A/B: 220 kHz (1:2 ratio)
    JT-13K7-A: 120 kHz (1:5 ratio)
    JT-110K-HPC: 100 kHz (1:8 ratio)
    JT-115K-E: 90 kHz (1:10 ratio)

    You can see that the lower the step-up ratio, the wider the bandwidth. Basic laws of physics at work. Each of the Jensen models is the best that it can be for its particular step-up ratio. The step-up ratio is chosen based on the characteristics of the op-amp or tube that follows the input transformer. The 990 discrete op-amp has the lowest noise when driven by a low source impedance, so the JT-16-A/B is the ideal match for it. Quoting from the JT-16-A data sheet:

    "This transformer, with its 750 Ω secondary source impedance, will produce the best signal-to-noise performance with ultra-low e(subscript "n") amplifiers such as the Jensen JT-990-C module."

    So Deane Jensen came up with the ideal combination of input transformer and op-amp, the JT-16 and 990. In the earlier days, it was a "JE" number, not "JT", but that's another story. Many other op-amps and vacuum tubes are quietest when dealing with higher source impedances, so that is where the higher-ratio transformers come in.

    On the plus side, the higher ratio transformers provide more voltage gain than the lower ratio transformers. The JT-16 with its 1:2 ratio provides 5.7 dB voltage gain, while the JT-115K-E with its 1:10 ratio provides 19.75 dB of voltage gain. So you have a trade-off of voltage gain vs. distortion and bandwidth. Inescapable laws of physics and the trade-offs involved. You need more turns of wire on the secondary winding for the higher ratio transformers, and this creates higher inductance and reduced bandwidth, etc.

    Since the JT-16 provides only 5.7 dB of voltage gain, Deane no doubt though that it would be a good idea to add a 2nd 990 op-amp in series with the first 990 so that very high gain situations would split the gain between two 990s rather than push one 990 to provide all the gain. If you need 60 dB of gain, 5.7 dB comes from the JT-16, the remaining 54.3 dB must be provided by one 990, or 27.15 dB from each of two 990s. This is what the Jensen Twin Servo does.

    Then there are issues of how accurately the windings of a transformer are made. Also, how they are configured - one winding, or multiple windings, interleaved windings, and so on. What about core material? 80% nickel, 50% nickel, 97% iron, other materials. Size of the bobbin, therefore the size of the windings, maximum signal level the windings and core material can handle... So may ways to cause changes.

    I have always relied on Jensen because, in my strong opinion, they make the world's best audio transformers. If you prefer something else, I respect that. Whatever makes you happy. But if you want the widest bandwidth and lowest distortion, etc., The JT-16 is the best there is, followed by the 990, followed by the Jensen JT-11-BMQ output transformer with its 1:1 ratio, astonishingly low distortion and bandwidth of 15 MHz. It is not listed on the Jensen site, but it is essentially the same as the JT-11-BMCF, which is listed.

    And so on.

    John Hardy
    The John Hardy Co.
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  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    John, what an honor seeing you here and thank you for taking the time to write all that. :love:
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Holy crap! What an awesome post, John!!! It's like Moses coming down from the mountain with the tablets... LOL...(y)

    Man, I'm gonna save this to my files right NOW... as a fan of transformers in mic preamps, this stuff is pure gold to me. I don't pretend to understand everything ( or even much) about transformers, but posts like yours really help me to learn more about a subject that I'm really interested in. I wasn't expecting you to take the time to explain all this, John, but I'm sure glad you did - thank you very much for stopping by RO and helping me to understand this subject a little better. :)

    If you happen to stop by RO again ( I really appreciate you giving the info you have thus far, and understand if you can't get back here); I have a few questions...that may be considered to be of the most elementary type...please forgive my ignorance, I'm trying to keep up, and wrap my brain around all of this...

    Using the above example you have given, (referring to the factor of 60db for example purposes), can you clarify the advantages/disadvantages to using one 990 with the JT16, and having the single 990 providing all of the remaining 54.3 db of gain needed, as opposed to using two JH990's, and obtaining the remaining gain from both? (ie. less distortion? cleaner overall sound? not as much "sonic" character?, easier to build? or... none of the aforementioned?)
    Or... are you saying that the Jensen Twin Servo alleviates the need for a second JH990?

    As of right now, I'm using an ADK AP1 mic pre, and one of the transformers I have in my collection is a Jensen JT110k. (The others I have to to choose from are a Sowter 9040R(?), an ADK "stock", a Cinemag, and a Lundhal 1538XL).
    I realize that the turn ratio is higher in the JT110K ( is it 1:8?) than it is in the JT16 1:2, but all the same, I really do like the sound that the JT110K transformer presents when used in combination with your JH 990... I also really like the sound of the Lundhal 1538 when used with the 990 ( at least for my vocal through an AKG 414EB/CK12,) but now, after reading your post, I'm gonna have to do some research and find out if the the JT16A/B is available in the 7-pin, removable, "pop and swap" format for the ADK AP1 mic preamp I have...
    (FWIW, The other (output) XFO's I have - besides the JH990 - includes a Seventh Circle, an ADK "Vintage N", and an unmarked model that I'm assuming is the "stock" ADK Crimson).

    Thanks so much again, John :)

  18. JWHardy

    JWHardy Active Member


    My M-1 mic preamp uses the JT-16-B and one 990 op-amp. The Jensen Twin Servo uses the JT-16-B and two 990 op-amps connected in series. Here is the gain situation in the "60 dB gain scenario":

    M-1: 5.7 + 54.3 = 60
    Jensen Twin Servo: 5.7 + 27.15 + 27.15 = 60

    Consider a 3rd variation of the "60 dB gain scenario" where you have a high-ratio transformer such as the JT-115K-E that provides about 20 dB of voltage gain. The vacuum tube or op-amp or op-amps that immediately follow the JT-115K-E must provide 40 dB of gain to get you to the desired total of 60 dB. 20 + 40 = 60

    The high-ratio JT-115K-E (and the JT-110K-HPC) have the advantage of providing lots of voltage gain (about 20 dB for the JT-115K-E, about 18 dB for the JT-110K-HPC), so the op-amp following them does not have to provide as much gain to get you to 60. Therefore, the op-amp operating at 40 dB of gain will not be pushed to such a high gain that distortion starts to rise.

    Both the M-1 and Jensen Twin Servo will do a great job at 60 dB of gain. I don't have specific distortion and bandwidth specs to give you, but the Twin Servo will have a slight edge. Sometimes I put it this way: on a scale of zero to ten, both of these preamps are in the nineties. The character of both preamps should be very similar because they use the same input transformer, same op-amp, same output transformer, there are no coupling capacitors in the signal path. Same basic power supply (some grounding differences), same meter card, same basic frame. So the sonic differences should be slight, and they will be at high gain settings because of the single-stage vs. two-stage design. But I will leave that up to the users that have tried both to describe in terms of sonic character, etc.

    There are twice as many 990 op-amps in the Twin Servo, so there is a lot more circuitry to assemble (and to squeeze into the existing space of the original M-1 card format). More adjustments to make (the "input bias current compensation" adjustments and the "DC servo" adjustments). The input bias current compensation circuitry is more complex on the Twin Servo, and it is NOT the circuit that is shown in the Jensen application notes for the Twin Servo. Those notes have much simpler circuits. The official circuitry of the Twin Servo that I build is proprietary and not released to the public.

    Any op-amp, even the 990, has limits on how much gain it can provide before distortion starts to increase. This is why the two-stage design of the Twin Servo offers somewhat less distortion and wider bandwidth at very high gain settings than the single-stage design of the M-1.

    Thanks again.

    John Hardy
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  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    John, my question to you is for the passive summing crowd. I'm hoping you are familiar with the Folcrom ( http://www.rollmusic.com/folcrom.php ) approach and can suggest, possibly give a few scenarios in regards to Hardy/ Folcrom combo's? (Please feel welcome to suggest your pre-amps as it is Hardy pre's I am interested in).

    example: would a more British sound attribute to the single-stage design of the M-1 ("the higher ratio models will be more appropriate") ? and so on...

    Anything you can add towards this would be valuable for us too.

    We are thrilled to have caught your attention to say the least. Thanks for chiming in.
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  20. JWHardy

    JWHardy Active Member


    I have never heard any comparisons of the M-1 vs. the Jensen Twin Servo (or either of those preamps compared to any other preamp) that involved the word "British", or any other specific country, etc. A very common type of comment is that my preamps are very accurate, but with a certain quality that they really like. People from all walks of life use them quite successfully, whether it is rock, C&W, jazz, classical, rap, heavy metal, post-nuclear, voice work, Foley, you name it. My preamps work extremely well at very low gain settings, at very high gain settings, and anywhere in between. They perform flawlessly all the way up to output levels of almost +26 dBu where the clipping point is. As long as the signal is not clipping (and there is the "PK" LED on the meter that goes off at +22 dBu to warn you ahead of time), it will sound great. Even at the lowest gain setting, the output level will reach the clipping point before the input transformer even begins to saturate.

    Many users have put their entire stereo mix through an M-1 or M-2 or Jensen Twin Servo in order to warm things up a bit, or get rid of the digital harshness that they hear. I don't know the specifics of all of those situations, and I don't know if any of them are using my preamps as make-up gain for a passive summing box such as the Folcrom. They may just be mixing digitally with the stereo mix coming out somewhere in the analog domain, then going through one of my preamps. Lots of differences in how things are processed digitally, some better than others.

    Synthesizers and other devices are often put through my preamps to get more gain from them and to warm them up.

    Regarding the Folcrom, I had a call from someone in Europe asking about using an M-1 as the make-up gain device. He apparently had tried an M-1 that way, as well as some sort of Neve clone. All I can tell you is, all of my preamps are about a quiet as the laws of physics allow, and they are very accurate, with a certain quality that most people really like. Only you can tell if it meets your specific requirements. Try it. See what you think. If you are only going to need 35-40 dB of gain, the M-1 is a more economical choice and should be as good as the Jensen Twin Servo.

    Regarding Neve preamps vs. my M-1 (I guess that would be a British preamp vs. however we might describe an M-1), I have a couple of classic examples of people that strongly preferred the M-1. One of them is represented in a video on my YouTube page:

    Another example is a legendary engineer by the name of Jim Anderson. He was recording the Renee Rosnes album "For the Moment" back around 1990 or so. His 4-channel M-1 stopped working in the middle of recording one day. He immediately called me for help. I sent a 990 replacement by overnight delivery so they were back in business the next day. But the rest of the story is: When Jim got off the phone with me, he realized that the M-1 would be out of commission until the next day. So they took the four mics that were plugged into the M-1 and moved them over to the legendary Neve console that they had at A&R Studios (room #2) in New York. Immediately everyone noticed the difference and they decided to quit for the day, to resume the next day after the M-1 was working again. Jim wrote a nice letter to me some time later, thanking me and mentioning: "I'm always amazed when the artists and even producers can tell a noticeable difference." He enclosed a copy of the finished album with the letter. He explained that it was "recorded direct to 2 track Sony Dash 3402 at A&R Studio R-2 in New York. The piano sound is yours. Thank you."

    So if you want a lot of color, try a Neve. If you want accuracy with a special certain quality, try my preamps.

    Thank you.

    John Hardy
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